I don't remember my parents.
Sometimes I feel as if some smells or occurences spark a small memory, but it isn't long before that feeling is gone. Like a tendril of smoke that was blown away by a strong wind.
Of course, I was only four years old when they died, and no one would really expect anyone to remember much when you're that little. Nor do I exactly know how my parents died. No one would ever really tell me the answers. Whenever I would bring it up, my family would laugh shakily, avert their eyes, and mumble a non-commental reply.
After my parents funeral, my remaining family decided together that it would be best if my father's brother and his wife took me into their home.
They had two children already, and it was thought that I would have some playmates.
I was sent to a medium sized village that was nothing like the small country home that I had lived in for the whole of my short life, and after arriving I met my cousins for the first time that I could remember: A girl about five years older than me, and a little boy still little enough to be carried by the babysitter, one who cried instantly when he was put down.
To an average person just glancing in, it would look like a normal and kind family home, at least that's what I thought as I stood in the living room, being introduced to the other inhabitants of the house and looking around the room curiously. What I didn't take into account at the time was that death wasn't quite finished taking people from me, and this time I had no kind person to turn to when his cold hand dragged away another of my loved ones.
Around half a year after my arrival it was discovered that my Uncle had a rare heart disease.
He had gone to the Doctor complaining of some trouble when he breathed and they had found the disease after doing a scan of his chest. He had been relatively healthy before that, and had not been to the doctor in such a long time that the disease was so far advanced when they found it, that there was nothing to do but send my uncle home and make him as comfortable as possible for his remaining days.
He lived for another five months, seeming to waste away far more quickly than I would have ever imagined. Going from the vibrant and energetic man that I had come to know, to a pale and almost lifeless body that sat in a large chair and stared out the window at the passing people.
He always managed to give me a small smile when I came into the room however, asking me about my day even though I knew that it wore him out to hold a conversation with me.
He would always fall asleep almost before I was even finished speaking.
After his death, my aunt became extremely bitter. Wondering why her 'perfect' family had been affected in such a way.
She would yell into the empty room, asking the air why her husband had been taken when there were so many terrible people in the world. Waiting for a reply before throwing whatever was in reach when she didn't receive one.
A few weeks after the funeral she seemed to give up on asking questions of the air and turned her rage towards the other people in the house. She began to blame us children for anything and everything that went wrong. A dish wasn't in it's 'right place' and she threw it at us while we were eating. It rained in the early morning and made her newspaper wet and she began to hit us with it until we could escape, or the soggy paper fell to piece.
Typically she turned her rage more towards me, her violence becoming worse when it wasn't one of her own children that she was beating or yelling at. Not to say that she wasn't a complete terror to them as well, but the girl had her schooling during the day, and the little boy was always kept away by the nanny.
Since I was still what she considered as 'too young' to go to school, she put me to work helping the housekeeper or nanny, scrutinizing my work when I was finished and deciding if it was done to her satisfaction...more often than not, it wasn't.
When she decided that nothing I had done was right, she would scream, tell me how useless I was, lament about how she was cursed to take care of such a stupid and worthless child on her own before sending me to my room without dinner. If I argued, I was instantly slapped, my aunt's face red with rage as she screeched at me...I didn't argue much after the first two or three times of being hit.
If it hadn't been for my Aunt's daughter, I believe that I would be dead today, either from lack of food, or by the beatings that I received.
The wonderful girl would sneak food to me when I was locked in my room, waiting until her mother had fallen into an almost coma like sleep before stealing the key from her and bringing me a tray filled with food.
Other times, she was forced to step between her mother's swinging hand, reminding her that if the neighbors saw bruises on me that it would cause questions and they would report it. This almost instantly caused her mother to freeze, before she would straighten her outfit and leave me where I was usually crumpled on the floor, her daughter helping me up and cleaning my new wounds as best as she knew how, her hands always shaking violently as she apologized.
She didn't give me much time to ask questions or thank her, simply finishing with her first-aid before running to help the nanny with her brother, making sure that the young boy didn't cry and irritate his mother to more violence.
We lived that way for around a year-and-a-half. Everyone in the house constantly walking on eggshells so that we didn't bring about the wrath of my unstable aunt.
After that year-and-a-half, rumors began to circulate the village about a potential attack from a strange organization. My aunt, in a strange show of motherly concern, sent her children to visit her sister in another village, one far away from the potential dangers.
I, however, was forced to stay in the village with my aunt, having no where else to go. All of my other family believed that I was in a happy home, one with a loving Aunt and children my age. None of which was the case at all anymore.
One night, about a month after my cousins had been sent away, and I had fallen exhausted into bed, I heard the explosions start and the panicked screams outside of my windows.
I had laid there quietly, terrified and unable to move until I heard the soft noises at my door. I had swallowed hard, already knowing who it was and slightly aware of what she was planning. My Aunt's voice was never very quiet after she had been drinking and I could hear her even over the loud explosions that shook the house.
By the time that the door finally swung open I had gained control over my body again and was standing on the floor when she stumbled into my room, her entire being reeking of her favorite alcohol. As if she had drenched herself in it.
As she took a step towards me, another bomb lit up the sky and I saw the glittering object in her hand, the blade winking at me menacingly as she stumbled closer, her voice badly slurred and almost incomprehensible as she spoke
"You little monster. Death just follows you wherever you go, doesn't he?
First he takes your parents, then my husband, and now he is trying to drag me into his wormy realm as well. Well I won't let him have me so easily! I'll give him you instead. Maybe then he will be satisfied and will leave my family alone!"
She lunged at me, her unsteady legs giving me enough advantage to fall out of the way and run out my bedroom door, towards the stairs and then hopefully out the door.
I didn't know how horrible the outside would be after the explosions, but in that moment, I thought that it would be better than what was trying to kill me inside of the house. At least I might survive the bombs out in the open, if I stayed in the house that was far less likely.
As I pulled open the door I glanced back over my shoulder, trying to see how close my aunt was to catching me and saw nothing. As I had prepared to run forwards again, moving before I was even fully looking, I crashed into someone's legs.
I had felt a moment of panic, wondering how my aunt had gotten out the door before I had and had raised my head, my chest pounding inside of my chest, staring in shock at the person that I ran in to.
I had stared into the bored eyes of a man that I had never seen before, his expression blank as he gazed down at me, seeming to not even be breathing as we continued to look at each other.
For a moment, the sight of the strange man had caused me to forget that I had been fleeing my drunk aunt, but the sound of the faltering footsteps pounding on the stairs caused me to remember what was happening with a jolt and I quickly tried to push past the man, wanting to be as far away from the house as possible.
I screeched and tried to fight against him when his hard hands had suddenly picked me up, swinging me up into his arms. He held me easily and no amount of my punches or kicks seemed to have any effect on him as he walked us further into the house. It wasn't until I tried to bite him that he finally spoke to me, his voice sounding as bored as his eyes had looked.
''I wouldn't do that. You might break your teeth and it will still have no effect on me.''
I had stilled and looked up at him, feeling the tears in my eyes and bit hard at my lip, not wanting to give this stranger and my aunt the satisfaction of seeing me cry.
The man seemed to sense that I wouldn't fight him anymore and came to a stop at the foot of the stairs, looking at my aunt as she stumbled her way down, her face twisted in an ugly scowl, sweat standing out on her face and the knife grasped tightly in her fingers, her knuckles white.
The man's eyes seemed to narrow slightly, though he kept his expression in that bored look that I began to wonder about. Was it just an act so that he didn't show his emotions to other people?
My aunt hesitated when she caught sight of the man, her eyes darting frantically between him and where I rested in his arms and I saw her face heat in a tale-tell sign of her rage. I bit harder at my lip, scrunching myself into a ball against the man's chest, preparing myself for the pain that typically came with such a look and the man looked down at me, his arms tightening slightly. He didn't wait for my aunt to speak, simply turned on his heel and began to walk us back towards the door.
My aunt let out an enraged yell when her booze soaked brain processed what was happening and stumbled the rest of the way down the stairs, lunging at the man that held me, the knife in her hand raised high. I had opened my mouth to warn the man, but a gasp was the only noise I had made as a strange weapon had sprung from the man's back and impaled my aunt through her chest. I had seen her eyes widen before I had buried my face into the man's shoulder, unwilling to watch the light fade from her eyes.
I kept my face hidden even as we walked outside, knowing without even looking that the majority, if not all, of the remaining villagers were dead or dying. I could smell the burnt flesh around me, and hear the pitiful moans of the injured. The rancid smell burnt my nose and made my eyes ache and water.
The explosions could still be heard in the distance and I cringed into my strange saviors chest, the sounds making my ears hurt and a strange feeling of deep fear settle over me.
I am still unsure how long the explosions lasted, or how long we walked, but the explosions had stopped just as quickly as they had started, leaving the night eerily quiet in the aftermath. Soon, the crickets had begun to chirp again and I had let my exhaustion overcome me and fell asleep to the gentle noises.
A sickeningly sweet voice entered my dreams, speaking to the man that held me.
"Sasori, you brought a child with you? I know that you wanted a new puppet, but I didn't realize that you would want a child. And a girl at that. How strange of you."
I had realized suddenly that I was slightly awake, hearing the words of the people that had destroyed the village where I was living.
My instincts told me not to move and I followed them, more for the fact that I was enjoying being held so kindly for the first time in over a year and didn't want the strange man to release me.
He and the other voice spoke quietly, the arms around me tightening after a moment before I felt a harsh wind against my face. They had come to a decision and I had breathed a sigh of relief before turning my face into the strange man's chest and allowing myself to return to my sleep and my dreams.
I woke far slower than I was used to, the mattress I was lying on far softer than the one that I was used to and I was dreading opening my eyes and being forced to leave the warmth of the blankets.
I had sighed and reluctantly opened my eyes, instantly gasping and scuttling back towards the headboard when I caught sight of the blond man that had been leaning over me.
Instead of speaking to me, he grinned widely, an almost goofy look that instantly had me smiling back and relaxing. His grin widened even more before he looked towards a desk, where the man that I remembered picking me up sat, watching the interaction curiously.
"Sasori-Dono, she really is a cutie. I'm glad that you found her.
And you're sure that we get to keep her? Leader said that it was alright without throwing a big fuss?''
The man at the desk remained silent, but the blond seemed to not mind, instead shrugging and continuing on without an answer, beginning to ramble a bit.
''Oh well, it doesn't really matter I suppose. I'm just glad that I have someone to try my new hairstyles out on, yeah? There was one that I found that would look just adorable on her... I need to go find that magazine! I hope that damned Uchiha didn't throw it away!''
He was mumbling to himself, seeming to forget about me and the other man as he stood and walked towards the door. He paused only when he had pulled the heavy looking door open and threw me a grin over his shoulder.
''I'll talk to you later, cutie. I'll figure out something pretty to do with your hair, un."
He was gone before I could frown at him, the door already closed before I was able to protest.
My hair was always a tangled mess, no one having ever taken the time to teach me how to brush it.
The one time I had tried, the brush had become so tangled in the knots that my Aunt had been forced to take a pair of scissors to the mess, after several failed attempts at simply jerking the brush out of the snarls. That had been months and months before she had even sent her children away, and I had decided to never try to brush my hair again. If I needed it out of my face, I simply pulled it into a messy ponytail, leaving the tangled nest to do it's own thing while I did mine.
I sighed and remembered the other occupant of the room suddenly, looking over towards the man that had saved me, seeing him watching me from his chair at his desk, seeming to be studying my reaction to the blond's words.
We had a bit of a staring contest before he turned his chair, his back to me and I heard the scrapping of a pencil against some paper.
I knew that I should have just stayed on the bed. I didn't know this man really, or what he would do if I irritated him, but my curiosity, as it usually did, got the better of me.
I had slid from the large bed before walking on slightly shaky legs to the desk, having to stand on my toes to look over his arm at what he was drawing and feeling a frown come to my face.
It looked like a sketch of a puppet, but it had so many markings and scribbles that it made my head ache when I tried to follow the patterns. I had finally given up with a sigh, not having any hope of understanding the complicated notes.
His voice when he spoke to me made me jumped slightly, his voice echoing through the empty room. Asking a question while still managing to sound bored and uncaring.
"What is your name, girl?''
His eyes didn't leave the paper when he spoke, instead adding another scribble to the puppet as he waited for my response.
It took far too much thought for me to answer such a simple question. I should have known my name. And I HAD known it at one point. But it had been so long since anyone had said it that I had forgotten. I hadn't been called anything in over a year besides…
My aunt had made a habit of simply calling me by some terrible names when she was referring to me and 'brat' was the typical name that she called when she wanted my attention.
The man paused in his sketching to look down at me, his mouth turning down in a frown and his voice serious.
"Brat? I seriously doubt that is your name. Come on now, you can tell me what it is. I know that there is this teaching to never tell your name to strangers, but I am not going to harm you. I simply wish to know how to refer to you."
I shook my head, not having thought since he brought me here that he would hurt me, but not knowing what else to tell him.
"I really think that Brat is probably my name. At least now. My aunt called me that all the time. So that has to be my name, right?"
He shook his head, his eyes seeming to become sad, though I wasn't really for sure since his voice was still the same bored tone.
"Did they call you anything else that might be your name?"
I frowned and thought hard, to before my Uncle had died. He had several terms for me as well, though they were always kind. Sweetheart was his favorite, but he used that endearment for almost everyone, and I had doubted even then, that I shared a name with so many people.
It had taken me several minutes to think back over the times before my uncle died, or the things that he had said. But I finally remembered something and smiled up at the man triumphantly as I answered.
"Ria. My Uncle and other family called me Ria."
A ghost of a smile crossed his face in response to my enthusiasm, his head lowering in acknowledgment as he spoke.
"It's nice to meet you, Ria. My name is Sasori, and this is the Akatsuki headquarters.
You will be living here from now on, and until I can figure out which room you will be staying in, you will be sleeping in here."
He waited only for me to nod before he returned to his sketching, not telling me anything else. Not what I was supposed to do in such a place, or why he had saved me and taken me in when he had obviously killed so many others in the village. And I didn't have the courage in that moment to ask.
I had watched him sketch a little longer before becoming sleepy again, his constant movements and sounds a comforting type of lullaby I had sunk down to sit by his leg, not really wanting to return to sleep on the bed alone, no matter how comfortable it was, and leaned my head against the desk, my eyes closing as the small noises continued.
I had almost drifted to sleep when the noises had stopped and the chair was pushed back, Sasori again picking me up and returning me to the bed, my tired body falling completely asleep before I was even fully laid on the mattress.